It’s rare that an event features a title fight that isn’t the most intriguing bout on a fight card. Yet, that’s exactly what has happened at UFC on Fox 6 on Jan. 26 in Chicago.

Although the flyweight title clash between champion Demetrious Johnson and challenger John Dodson should be a great fight, a lightweight collision between former WEC stars Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone and Anthony “Showtime” Pettis has the recipe to steal the show.

Cerrone enters the fight red hot. Since coming over from the WEC, he’s gone 7-1, with the lone loss coming against recent title challenger Nate Diaz. Three of Cerrone’s four losses have come in title fights, but the Colorado native is eager to earn his first crack at UFC gold.

Across the cage will be the final WEC title holder, Pettis. The Milwaukee-based fighter had an automatic title shot when he entered the UFC, but elected to fight rather than wait. That decision cost him as he dropped a decision to Clay Guida, and now he’s hoping that a win over Cerrone will give him a chance to face Benson Henderson once more—the current champ and man Pettis defeated for the WEC title.

Let’s take a deeper look at the match-up. And as a reminder, this is a side-by-side comparison of how the fighters’ skills matchup against each other using similar scoring to the unified rules.

Striking: Cerrone – 10, Pettis – 10

Cerrone (R) (James Law/Heavy MMA)

If this fight stays standing, the winner will be the fans.

Cerrone is a highly-technical Muay Thai practitioner. His biggest weapon is his use of range, thanks to his 5-foot-11 frame. He will unleash combos from almost any distance, finishing frequently with lethal outside leg kicks. His unblemished kickboxing record in 29 career fights should speak volumes about his abilities on the feet. The two knockout wins on his resume are very misleading, as he frequently stuns his opponents on the feet before finishing them on the ground. And if that’s not enough, Cerrone, having never been finished by strikes, possesses a granite chin.

Pettis is far from the technical fighter that Cerrone is, but he makes up for it with explosiveness and unpredictability. Obviously his “Showtime” kick to capture the WEC belt will go down as one of the most famous strikes in MMA history, but his Taekwondo has helped him transition seamlessly into MMA. Like Cerrone, he has a long frame, but he is willing to throw a variety of strikes from weird angles that can surprise his opponents. He also has a strong chin to accompany his nine career wins by strikes.

Ground Game: Cerrone – 10, Pettis – 9

Pettis (James Law/Heavy MMA)

For two fighters with striking bases, both have equally as deadly submission attacks.

Thirteen of Cerrone’s 19 wins have come via tapout. Perhaps most impressive is the variety of techniques he’s used. Again, his length has helped him attack with ease from his back, where he’s scored multiple triangle choke and armbar finishes. But the Jackson’s MMA product also loves to end fights by rear-naked choke once he’s stunned them with strikes.

The ground game of Pettis is very similar to Cerrone’s. The Roufusport fighter has an active guard and his length has led to multiple wins via triangle choke. Other than his fight with Jeremy Stephens, Pettis hasn’t really showcased his top game, and if that fight was any indication, that’s where the BJJ purple belt has the most room to improve.

Wrestling: Cerrone – 10, Pettis – 9

Pettis (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

Neither of these combatants is a natural wrestler, but neither would claim to be.

Cerrone’s confidence in his guard has left him on the wrong end of decisions before. His willingness to give up a takedown to attack from his back served him well early in his career, but as his level of competition became more difficult, that began to hurt him on the scorecards. However, he’s shown the ability to score takedowns of his own in his bouts with Jamie Varner and Paul Kelly. It’s highly unlikely that you’ll see Cerrone shoot in this fight, but if things aren’t going his way standing, he has the edge in this department.

Without question, this is Pettis’ biggest weakness. He lost his title shot after being put on his back over and over again in the aforementioned Guida fight. His offensive takedowns looked improved against Jeremy Stephens in his next outing, but if Pettis wants to be champion someday, he must improve his defense.

X-Factor

Who wants it more? It’s that simple. Both have faced current champ Benson Henderson, with Pettis coming out on top, but Cerrone failing on both occasions. What does that mean for this fight? Nothing, as neither of these fighters have the same type of skill set as the champion. This fight has the makings of “Fight of the Night” or even “Fight of the Year” if it remains standing.

Total: Cerrone – 30, Pettis – 28

Verdict: Cerrone is the more complete fighter. Even if Pettis does get the better of the stand-up, the “Cowboy” has more tools to win this fight. Both fighters are very hard to finish, so expect this one to hit the scorecards with Cerrone having his name read as the victor.

Top Photo: Donald Cerrone (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

  • Robby C.

    “If this fight stays standing, the winner will be the fans.” No doubt about that.